Employment protections bill introduced for the 20th time… but will expanded religious exemptions doom ENDA before it’s even reintroduced?
By Cathy Kristofferson, April 25, 2013
The 2013 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be introduced into Congress today by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the Senate and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in the House. This is the 20th time that ENDA has been introduced into Congress, dating back to 1994. This time Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Committee, has promised to get the bill through to a Senate vote, which has not happened since 1996. While this is good news the big question is will the expanded religious protections prove to be its demise?
It is perfectly legal, at this time, in 29 of the U.S. states, to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and in 34 states if transgender. There is no legal recourse for persons fired for reasons based on sexual orientation to to get their job back. ENDA ’13 would finally put in place uniform and comprehensive protections for the LGBT workforce in all 50 states. If passed and signed into law, ENDA would protect private and public employees from employment discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity.
In addition to the threat of job loss, LGBT workers also experience high rates of harassment, abuse, and anti-gay vandalism on the job. They also suffer other forms of discrimination like being passed over for promotion or receiving an unwarranted negative performance evaluation whether the employee is out at work or not.
Nationwide 9 out of 10 people mistakenly believe that these protections are already in place! The fact is that LGBT people are often fired simply for being LGBT. It is time for Congress to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. These protections enjoy a 73% approval rating with the American people but having just watched legislation with more than a 90% rating die at the hands of a Republican filibuster, there is much work to be done to get this bill to a vote, never mind get it passed.
Concerns have been raised by LGBT organizations about the expanded and added religious exemptions contained in this new version of the bill. Some believe this will allow religiously affiliated organizations, even hospitals and universities, too wide a berth to claim exemption. In a statement released Thursday morning, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center state they “stand united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption” to the bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.The groups. They noted that “the key religious exemption in new legislation banning anti-LGBT job discrimination “undermines the core goal” of the bill and should be removed.”
Currently immigration and gun reform are dominating the attention of the White House and the media. President Obama, in refusing to meet his campaign pledge of signing an executive order for job protections for federal contract employees, reasoned ENDA protecting all employees was the better option. The passage of this bill will require much work toward amending the offending exemption clauses, as well as a barrage of action and outreach from business and constituents, alike.
In addition to Sens. Merkely and Harkin, the bill will include bi-partisan co-sponsorship from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
Please keep an eye on the calls to action that are sure to follow in the time ahead.
- $300 billion in federal contracts granted where no LGBT job protections exist (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Marriage means nothing without job protections (oblogdeeoblogda.me)